The future of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in government remains a developing work in progress, but for evidence of the technology’s rapid development and staying power, it might just be enough to order some fast-food takeout.

Willie Hicks, Public Sector Chief Technologist at Dynatrace, talked about the future of AI tech during an Aug. 31 event on IT complexity hosted by GovLoop, where he pointed to examples of AI-driven chatbots that are already taking customer orders.

The private sector AI expert recalled a story about rolling up to a fast-food restaurant, and not realizing that a bot was taking his order until he tried to interact with it.

“AI is really popping up everywhere,” Hicks said. “I could tell the efficiency, because by the time I had finished [ordering], they were just handing me the food out the window.”

Hicks never imagined seeing AI technology in these establishments so soon. Despite the complexity that comes with having advanced tech tools in businesses and homes, he urged attendees to view those developments as positive steps forward.

The technology, he predicted, is going to make our lives easier, and the efficiency of AI will allow people to tackle more difficult problems in quicker ways.

That upside potential will also be realized by government as it continues to implement AI tech, he said.

“Agencies will be able to move more nimbly because they have learned they can execute on plans quicker,” he said.

Plans that once took companies upwards of five years to complete can be rapidly expedited with tools like AI – that is, if they do not break, Hicks explained.

Another part of the discussion was what to do if these tools fail on businesses.

A lot of fear and discomfort among employees comes from simply not understanding the complexity of new technologies, he said.

The conversation leaned towards human capital and the importance of training up. AI can fail, Hicks said, so you need the people who can be there to fix it, and you need them to be trained on the most recent equipment to be prepared for the next generation of technology.

“These technologies are going to continue to push forward,” he said. “It’s in our houses – AI built into smart systems, smart homes, smart roads. It’s just not going away.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.